Region: North East
Summary: An affordable housing scheme which includes the conversion of a range of farm buildings and an element of new build. Lying with the North Pennines AONB Blanchland is a small historic village containing a large number of listed buildings and the scheme is located within a conservation area.
Blanchland was the site of an abbey founded in the 12th century and became part of the estate of Lord Crewe, Bishop of Durham. The village is still maintained by Lord Crewe’s Charity.
Set within a valley Blanchland is clustered around a cross-roads with small secondary streets and lanes creating a tight, intimate network of routeways.
Blanchland is a small, historic ‘picture postcard’ village and the housing scheme lies within its conservation area. Local stone is the predominant building material and any new development would have to be carefully designed to preserve its character.
The new build element of the development occupies the site of a village hall which has been relocated. The conversion of the redundant farm buildings needed to retain their agricultural character, the setting of adjacent listed buildings and the character of the conservation area. Lying close to the centre of the village the site is visible from the main route through Blanchland.
The new build element of the scheme has been designed to present the character of an L-plan range of farm buildings typical of the area where two storey multi-functional buildings are often part of the farmstead group. An irregular arrangement of openings is present on the most visible elevations whereas those to the rear have a more regular domestic arrangement. The scheme uses local stone and stone roof slates to blend in to the local scene.
The conversion of the farm building range has retained their simple character whilst avoiding the creation of new openings.
The Blanchland scheme is an excellent example of how affordable housing can be introduced into a small, highly sensitive historic area. The use of high quality materials is a key factor in the success of the scheme but most importantly, the design of the new-build shows that it is possible to develop within a back-land plot using a non-domestic form which retains the character of the area.
During the conversion of the farm buildings its simple appearance has been maintained without introducing new openings of domestic form.
Are there aspects of the scheme that could be considered as being less successful?
The landscaping of the area in front of the development could perhaps have been improved – the expanse of unbroken black tarmac does not provide a characteristic setting for the building.
Better detailing of doors and windows could have further benefited the scheme.
Keywords: DESIGN IN CONTEXT